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Course/Group Representative Handbook 2012/13

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Contents Introduction


Introduction from the Graduate Students’ Association President


Why is there a representation system?


Why become a representative?


Your role and your responsibilities


Key roles




eActivities for representatives


Useful contacts


“In giving these lectures there was one serious difficulty: in the way the course was given, there wasn’t any feedback from the students to the lecturer to indicate how well the lectures were going over. This is indeed a very serious difficulty, and I don’t know how good the lectures really are” Richard Feynman on the importance of student feedback Introduction to ‘The Feynman Lectures on Physics’, 1963.

congratulations Congratulations – you are now one of over 2,500 College students who have taken up a voluntary position at Imperial College Union, including over 2,000 Club, Society and Project officers, 400 academic representatives, 50 welfare volunteers, and dozens of campus, Hall and community representatives.

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Introduction Welcome to your new position as a Course Rep or Group Rep, part of the Academic Representation System of Imperial College London. You are now the voice of the students on your Master’s course or your research group, and are part of the Graduate Students’ Assocation (GSA). The GSA is the postgraduate wing of Imperial College Union, organising student representation as well as social events and collaborations with academic & non-academic staff to enhance College’s postgraduate community We are grateful to you for volunteering your time to improving the academic standards and social community of your course or research area. Everyone from the Rector down recognises the importance of representatives to the academic standing of Imperial College London. In return for your efforts, we aim to give you support and training to make sure you are as effective and knowledgeable as possible, and ensure that you look back on your experience as a representative as an opportunity for personal and professional development. This handbook is the primary resource for achieving that. It is complemented by in-person training sessions in the first weeks of the academic term, as well as workshops throughout the year, online resources, and the availability of staff and fellow student volunteers for advice,

Doug Hunt Deputy President (Education) E: T:020 7594 8060, extension: 45646

guidance and cups of tea. Throughout this handbook, you will see three kinds of box: Get started, Perks of the job, and Give me more. They give you suggestions on how to get started in your position, how to make the most out of it for your own personal & professional development, and where to find extra information and training. We hope you have a great time, and make the most of all the opportunities that Imperial offers its students. You can find us in the Union building all year round - if you ever have a question or need some advice, drop us a line – or just drop in. Here’s to a successful year! Doug Hunt Deputy President (Education)

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Introduction from the President of the Graduate S

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) is the postgrad postgraduates by giving them guidance, advice and a stronger voice related to any academic or welfare issues and ensure they receive all the help and support they need to have a great postgraduate experience. The GSA Events team organises social events throughout the year ranging from pub quizzes, cinema nights, Xmas parties etc. As postgraduate student representative, please help our events team by promoting our events. These are excellent opportunities for the postgraduate community to come together and have fun!

Maryam Habibzay GSA President E:

Hello! I’m Maryam, this year’s President of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). The GSA is a part of the Union and is specifically for postgraduate students at Imperial. The GSA executive committee is responsible for all GSA activities and consists of a number of elected student officers, who represent postgraduate students on graduate school, Imperial College Union and college committees. We support

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The GSA team will work closely with you and together we will ensure that all postgraduates are well represented and organise exciting social events for a fantastic postgraduate experience at Imperial College London! I look forward to working with you in the near future! Find out more about the GSA at

Students’ Association

duate wing of Imperial College Union.

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Why is there a representation system? The simplest explanation of the role of representation is to 6,400 people are undertaking postgraduate study at Imperial College London, split evenly between Doctoral and Master’s programmes. Students may work in groups and cohorts, but ultimately each student interacts with their peers, their department and College in their own unique way. Problems can and will arise every day, and student representation can provide many forms of support to help students resolve issues as they materialise. Representation brings power to the students – but it also brings benefits to College. Imperial College London is a world-renowned institution with a well-deserved reputation for academic quality and cutting-edge research. Its departments and researchers are regularly checked by external examiners & reviewers, funding agencies, and annual assurance processes. However, these are only part of the picture when it comes to quality; on the ground, a network of trained & trusted student representatives is needed to work with teaching and support staff to identify issues on a granular level.

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Imperial College Union believes that problems are best solved by those most familiar with them, and we try to run a wide-ranging, decentralised representative system where each member is empowered to set their own tasks, goals and agendas, while learning from each other and drawing upon our collective experience. Additionally, a recent PG Welfare Survey showed that postgraduate students can feel isolated and detached from academic and social communities. Therefore, as well as social events for postgraduate students, we aim to have a representative known to each student as part of our efforts to develop the work of the GSA and build a strong postgraduate community. As a representative, those you represent have given you the authority to bring up issues with College, and to plot your own path to solutions and success. You can find a full explanation of this system – and your part in it – in Your role and your responsibilities, on page 10.

solve students’ problems. Education, Welfare and Outreach Staff Andrew Keenan Education & Welfare Manager Andrew runs the team that looks after our student representatives, as well as our welfare, campaigns and liberation officers, the student-led teaching awards, and other education-related matters.

Nigel Cooke Student Adviser Nigel supports and advises individual students or small groups who have been affected by any one of a wide range of issues - from academic matters to accommodation, crime, and more

Vacant Representation Coordinator The Representation Coordinator supports and maintains the representative structures - arranging for elections, organising training, and answering dayto-day queries from representatives

Vic Casambros Outreach Coordinator Vic’s role is to improve the support and services offered by Imperial College Union to campuses other than South Kensington, postgraduates, and international students.

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Why become a representative?

The primary reward of being a representative is in the satis Not just by helping your fellow students overcome difficulties, but also by influencing opinions and decisions directly affecting your group, course, department or faculty. The changes you make will be apparent in your and your fellow students’ courses. It takes a stagnant institution to be free of problems for resolution, and there will always be a need for vigorous academic representation even in one of the world’s top universities – particularly as the rate of change in teaching & research methods accelerates. The most satisfied, fulfilled students will still have issues to raise, and it is often the very best, most effective staff & students who will take advantage of our representative capabilities the most. The College itself is aware of the importance of an effective student representation system, and is supportive of your efforts. Personal & professional development But there’s even more in it for you. Alongside the knowledge that you will

have made a difference to how well you and your peers have been taught or supervised, being a representative is an ideal way to work on your own development – meaning your time as a volunteer can have benefits long after your thesis is completed and you start the next stage of your career, whether it is in academia, industry or other fields. These benefits can be both personal and professional, and can be an invaluable boost to your employability. Being an effective representative means being proficient in teamwork, time management, interpersonal communication, lobbying, and problemsolving. Crucially, you are not learning these in the abstract – you will be experiencing them first-hand as well as receiving tailored training with real consequences, and employers value that above almost everything else. Throughout this training and others, we are highlighting Perks of the job – ways to maximise the positive impact that being a representative can have you

If College is to succeed in constantly improving and developing its academic offerings and support for researchers, how can it do it without effective and open student representation?

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sfaction of having made a difference.

perks of the job Volunteering as a representative can help you work on the core competencies that College aims to impart to all of its students – the Imperial Graduate Attributes. More information can be found at on personally. More information on what being a representative can offer you, and how to develop your skills, is available from the Union website, Recognition In recent years, we have introduced special awards for the most dedicated

representatives as part of the Union Awards scheme. You could help one of your departmental teams to be singled out as the best, or you yourself could be recognised as one of the best representatives anywhere in College. We will be looking at lots of factors throughout the year –such as energy, effectiveness, enthusiasm, attendance, innovation and communication.

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Your role and your responsibilities You are responsible for making sure the student voice of Representing your year group Your duties are straightforward, but vital – you are in direct and daily contact with the people you represent, and will be their first port of call when problems arise. You are instrumental in academic representation as the primary means of communication between the student body, College staff, and your fellow representatives. If you drop out of the structure, you disconnect your entire cohort, cutting off hundreds of students from the Collegewide representation system.

for help. Your manifesto and election campaign were just the beginning; once you are elected, you must make your role absolutely clear to your year so they can use your power effectively. Starting the year Start off by sending an email to everyone in your cohort or research group (talk to your Course Coordinator or Postgraduate Administrator to find out how to do this). In this email, you should: • •

The best way to start off your new job is by making sure everyone knows who you are, and that they can come to you

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Introduce yourself as their Representative Outline your role and your responsibilities Give them your contact details (just an email address is fine!)

your course cohort or research group is heard. Give them the name & email of any fellow representatives, as a secondary point of contact. Stay informal and relaxed – but be clear and don’t assume that slang is comprehensible to everyone on your course.

contact throughout the year with your fellow students and representatives; establishing a good relationship with them will make your job much easier! Be approachable and friendly with them, so that they feel comfortable seeking you out for advice.

As mentioned elsewhere in this handbook, your role is proactive as well as reactive, so make sure to gather all of the manifesto points and proposals you can think of, combine them with your own goals for the year, and begin to develop your own coherent agenda rather than waiting for issues to come to you.

All of this goes for the staff in your Department too; representation is cooperation, not battle, and maintaining a friendly rapport with your staff will go a long way to smoothing the path for your proposals. Introduce yourself to them early if you don’t know them already, and keep in regular contact about the progress of various issues and the latest news from the representatives in their department.

If you keep your Departmental Representative or Academic & Welfare Officer aware of these plans, they can give you advice and assistance and make sure that effort is not being unnecessarily duplicated across College. It is vital that you remain in continuous

Dealing with issues arising If you have made your role clear to your fellow students, it won’t be long until they first approach you. When this

get started There is a full checklist for getting started as Year Representatives at the end of this handbook, and staff from the College and Imperial College Union will be in touch with you regularly throughout the year.

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Your role and your responsibilities cont...

of what people say.

happens, your first task is to gather information on the issue. Ask yourself: •

What exactly is the problem? If it’s not an academic issue, it may be out of your scope; refer them elsewhere, for example the Advice Centre or the Student Hub (contact details at the end of this handbook). Talk to all the students involved in the issue until you are completely clear about it. Who does it affect? Which student or group of students? This could range from one student to the entire College. Issues affecting one student must still be dealt with but they may require particular care to maintain the student’s right to privacy. Consider sending them to the Deputy President (Welfare) if it is a personal issue. How does it affect these students? In what way are they pressured or disadvantaged? Try and assess the nature and the extent of the effect by talking to them, and make notes

At this point you are in a position to decide where to take the issue. It may be appropriate to simply monitor the situation, perhaps if it is something that should sort itself out. It is more likely that you will have to take action by elevating the issue. It is then time to decide where best to take it. Elevating issues Broadly speaking, elevating an issue means taking it along one of two routes: directly to course or departmental staff, or up to the next level of the student representation structure. The appropriate route is at your discretion. •

If you believe your issue could benefit from consideration by your departmental staff, make it happen. Your primary point of contact with staff is at Staff-Student Meetings, however you do not need to wait for

get started Consider getting a notepad (the paper kind!) and a folder specifically for your representative duties. There, you can keep all of your papers and notes in one place - and make next year’s handover to your successor much simpler.

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give me more We recommend using SMART Goals to keep your ideas and rep work on track. To learn more, check out training and your Rep Training handouts.


these meetings to bring up issues. If you are unsure of how a problem might be solved OR a problem remains unsatisfactorily addressed after a Staff-Student Committee OR there is some complication (e.g. personal privacy issues) you must elevate the issue to the next level of the student representation structure: your Departmental Representative.

Urgent issues In certain circumstances, generally urgent academic problems that require immediate attention, do not wait for the next Staff-Student Meeting or for your next meeting with your Departmental Representative. Speak to a member of your departmental staff describing the problem and its urgency, or to the Deputy President (Education).

Information goes up, information comes down Just as you are responsible for representing the views and experience of your cohort or fellow researchers to College staff and Departmental Representatives, you are responsible for disseminating information down to the student body too! All aspects of your active representation must be made transparent to the students you are representing. Where you are bringing an issue to the attention of staff or other representatives, you must ensure that all students involved in the issue are informed and continually kept updated. This might be an acknowledgement of

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Your role and your responsibilities cont...

the issue and a promise to investigate further. It might be an explanation of the rationale behind the decision not to act or it might be a proposed solution to the issue. If you report an issue to staff, inform your students so that they know that the issue is being dealt with. If you receive any response from staff concerning the issue, inform your students.

Throughout the year, you will be asked by your Departmental Representative/ Academic & Welfare Officer (AWO)/ Deputy President (Education)/ Representation Coordinator to disseminate information to your peers. This may range from emails asking them to participate in one of our surveys, to vital academic information updates. Please make sure that this info reaches the students quickly!

If you elevate an issue to other representatives, inform your students so that they know that the issue is being dealt with. Should you find out that any decision has been or could be made by your department that could affect students’ academic affairs in any way, whether positive or negative, try to inform your students as soon as possible to allow them to consider the decision and respond through you.

perks of the job SSCs and similar meetings are good chances to work on your professional skills - real-life opportunities for chairing, setting agendas, speaking in public, and extracting action points and conclusions from discussion. Year Representative Page 14

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Key roles

The people and the positions you will be working with thr These are the people & positions you will be working with the most. All contact details are available at the end of this booklet. Course/Group Representative Every Master’s course will have at least one Course Representative, drawn from the students enrolled on that course. They regularly consult with their peers, attend staff-student committees, and build a relationship with the course staff. They coordinate feedback between students and staff and report up to the Departmental Representatives. Group or CDT Representative Every doctoral research group, or wider research area within a Department, will have at least one Group Representative drawn from the researchers. They keep in touch with all of the researchers in their area, attend staff-student committees, and build relationships with supervisors

get started

and departmental staff. They coordinate feedback between students and staff and report up to the Departmental Representatives. In some cases, one of the Group Representatives is also the Departmental Representative. Departmental Representative Every Department – such as Mathematics or Chemical Engineering – has at least one Departmental Representative, who can be any type of postgraduate student. They are the next level up of the system – coordinating all of the Group and Course Representatives in their department. They will keep an eye on departmental issues, and are in regular contact with senior staff such as Heads of Department and Directors of Postgraduate Study. They coordinate feedback between the reps and staff and report up to the Academic & Welfare Officers (AWOs). Academic & Welfare Officer

Have you had a one-on-one with your Departmental Representative or Course Convener, if one exists in your department, yet?

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roughout the year. The Academic & Welfare Officers (AWOs) look after all of the Departmental Representatives in their faculty. There are six AWOs in all, who attend some of the most high-level committees in College and work with senior College and Imperial College Union staff. Postgraduate Tutor & Director of Postgraduate Studies Each Department has at least one of these positions, although the titles may vary in different departments. Responsible for the overall smooth running of the department’s postgraduate teaching & research, their many duties include pastoral and administrative responsibility, leading induction sessions

for new students, and ensuring that supervision of researchers is of a high quality ( registry/researchdegrees/support ). Postgraduate Administrator and Course Administrators The non-academic administrative heart of each department, the PG Administrator is useful for disseminating information to doctoral students department-wide, organising contact with senior staff and being the department’s ‘institutional memory’. To contact Master’s students, most departments will have course administrators for individual or small clusters of Master’s programmes.

perks of the job

These members of staff, and other senior positions, are excellent contacts and sources of information about life in academia. If you want to understand how College works, or need contacts in industry, a professional relationship with senior staff is a good place to start. If you do not know who holds these roles, your postgraduate administrator should be able to let you know.

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“The single biggest problem with communication is the illu The importance of communication is brought up in almost every section of this handbook, but we think it is so crucial to an effective system of representation that it’s worth mentioning again. Furthermore, it comes in many forms.

A problem that is not communicated to a representative cannot be solved; a problem that is sorted, but the students are left uninformed, may as well never have been solved at all. Support and Resources

From the Deputy President (Education) to each and every rep for every single course and research group, there must be a constant flow of information back and forth about the various issues being brought up, discussed, and solved. This allows progress to be tracked and momentum maintained. Otherwise, problems are left unsolved, and the crucial trust of students in the representation system is weakened. Representatives must be pro-active in seeking out the opinions of students across their whole department – whether through surveys and emails, or through deploying Course and Group Representatives to communicate with their peers and explore issues widely.

get started

This year, Imperial College Union is expanding its staff support and resources dedicated to student representation. A new position of Education & Welfare Manager will oversee a full-time Representation Coordinator, who will be the main point of contact for all representatives. We have also appointed an Outreach Coordinator, who will expand our work with certain groups – postgraduates, international students, and students on satellite campuses. The budget for training, conferences, communication and other representative support has also been expanded.

To make the most use of the online & communication resources offered by Imperial College Union – including Mailchimp, SurveyMonkey, Exchange distribution lists, eActivities, and the website – check out thoughout the year.

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usion that it has taken place.� - George Bernard Shaw Checklist This checklist will help you get off to a good start as Course or Group Representative. Do you know who the following people are, and how to contact them? Deputy President (Education) Education & Welfare Manager Representation Coordinator Departmental Representative Course Convener/Supervisors Postgraduate Tutor Postgraduate Administrator Your fellow representatives Have you introduced yourself to the above people? Have you explored the new eActivities functions? Do you know which committees you are expected to attend? Do you know how to put items on the agenda of these meetings? Have you put meeting dates & deadlines into your calendar? Have you familiarised yourself with SMART goals? Are you aware of any students you represent on other campuses? Do you know how to contact your constituents?

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eActivities for representatives

A new app to help academic representatives plan, commu eActivities is a tool designed for volunteers and staff of Imperial College Union enabling them to easily administer their activities and services. This year, we are launching new features built specifically for our academic representatives – the first online tool of its kind by any students’ union in the UK. eActivities is browser-based and can be accessed easily anywhere. You log in with your College username and password, and it presents the functions and features appropriate to any Union position you hold. SMART Goals

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Imperial College Union recommends the use of SMART Goals whenever possible. They are a way of setting objectives and targets that helps you achieve them. SMART Goals are clear, understandable, and help make representatives accountable to their constituents. All representatives can now store SMART Goals on eActivities. They can allocate target dates, create progress bars, sort goals into a set list of categories, and mark goals as complete. SMART Goals will not be publicly available, but Course and Group Rep goals will be viewable & creatable by Departmental Representatives – helping

unicate and work together. Dep Reps manage and coordinate representation within their department. Papers Throughout the year, departments and representatives generate a large number of papers – from staff-student committees, departmental representation meetings, student forums, and other sources. eActivities can now store and index these files. Repfinders We are launching two new tools to help students find their Reps – the Representative A to Z and the automatic

Repfinder. The A to Z is a dynamically-generated list of all departments, centres, liberation zones and Halls of Residence across College. It pull representatives’ details from our central database, meaning that students can locate and contact any representative within just a few clicks from our homepage. The Repfinder is activated when a students logs in to the Imperial College Union website – it pulls the name and contact details of their representatives from our database, and shows them down the side of the screen.

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Useful Contacts Position


Email Address

Deputy President (Education)

Douglas Hunt


Education & Welfare Manager

Andrew Keenan


GSA President

Maryam Habibzay


GSA Vice-President

Natasha Strydom


Academic & Welfare Officers Medicine

Natalie Kempston



Nicholas Ng



Simon Schillebeeckx


Life Sciences

Helen Pennington


Physical Sciences

Ross Webster




Humanities/Co-Curricular Studies

Departmental Representative (fill in yourself) Departmental staff (fill in yourself) Head of Department Postgraduate Tutor Director of Postgraduate Studies

Other contacts Advice Centre (Student advisor)

Nigel Cooke


College Tutors – refer students to them for confidential advice on any issue

Mrs Margaret Cunningham Dr Lynda White Dr Mick Jones Dr Simon Archer

m.cunningham l.white m.d.jones s.archer

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Imperial College Union Beit Quadrangle Prince Consort Road London SW7 2BB

Tel: 020 7594 8060 Fax: 020 7594 8065 Email: Twitter: @icunion

Master's Course and PhD Group Reps  

Master's Course and PhD Group Reps